What Does It Mean If Your Credit Card Application Goes to Pending?

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Having your credit card application go to pending can be a little worrying and frustrating but it’s actually extremely common for this to happen. Here are several reasons why you your application may have gone to pending further review and some things you want to do if your credit card application ever goes to pending.

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Dealing with a Pending Credit Card Application

Your first application with a certain bank

Some banks don’t approve applicants instantly when it’s their first application with that bank. This is usually a security precaution but I’ve noticed that this occurs often with some banks like American Express. Typically, all you need to do to resolve this is call in to verify your identity (more details on that below).


Security issue

Related to the previous point, many times your credit card application goes to pending because for whatever reason you’ve triggered fraud prevention. Unfortunately, some people are just unlucky and their applications with certain banks almost always trigger this.

This is usually resolved by calling in and speaking with the fraud security department and answering questions about your identity. These are usually those questions like “when did you open up an auto loan” or “which one of the following is a previous employer?” Sometimes, all they need for you to do is confirm that you submitted the application.

In rarer cases, you might have to fax in specific forms or documents to prove your identity/income or even get a document notarized by a financial institution. Once you submit the necessary documentation, your application will be processed. 

If this happens, pay close attention to the deadline to submit your documents. The deadlines are usually very short and banks can be very rigid when it comes to you meeting those deadlines.

pending credit card application advice
Amex put me through a security gauntlet when I first got on board with them.

Special applications

Some credit card applications are known to virtually always go to pending.

A prime example of this are applications for the Chase Ink cards. It’s very hard to get instantly approved for Chase Ink cards and so it’s entirely expected for your application to go to pending. If this happens follow the standard procedure and wait out the processing time or if you’re one to take risks, call them up to see what’s going on (but check the links at the bottom of this article first).

pending credit card application
A pending credit card application isn’t always a bad thing.

Delay in processing

When a popular credit card hits the market or when a new lucrative offer comes out, it’s not uncommon for a lot of apps to go to pending because the bank is overwhelmed with processing them. So if you really want to get approved for a new card instantly, try to time your application to coincide with its launch or wait it out a few days to see what happens.


Standard processing

Sometimes there’s no explanation for why your credit card went to pending further review.

Maybe it needed manual review or went to pending for security purposes? Sometimes the bank won’t tell you squat about what’s going on and you’ll just have to deal with it and wait it out.

In these cases, it’s best to just resort to checking automatic status checkers. Most banks offers these either in the form of an online status checker or via an automated message over the phone (or both). Just try not to go crazy over checking your status for the sake of your own sanity.


Decision rendered but not conveyed

Sometimes the bank makes an instant decision on your application but yet the application still shows that it went to pending. The only way for you to get your decision is to either call up and inquire about the decision or wait a few business business days for a letter to arrive in the mail.

If an agent tells you you’ll have to wait several business days for the decision, try to call at least one more time because it’s possible that the agent didn’t know what he/she was talking about.


Application Error

Every now and again your credit card application will error out.

Often you’ll see a specific message that tells you that there has been an error but this isn’t always the case. This has happened to me with Citibank — my application never went through but all I received was a standard pending review message. It wasn’t until a week later that I realized that an error had occurred in the application process. This is pretty uncommon but it’s one reason why it’s important to follow up on your applications after you hit submit.

You can always check your credit report to see if a hard pull inquiry was made by that bank. If it wasn’t, then there’s a good chance your application had an error.


Many new applications/accounts

If you’ve recently applied for many new accounts and have a lot of new inquiries on your credit report, there’s a good chance that your application might be flagged and sent to pending on that basis.

This sometimes will result in the need for reconsideration (see below) but other times it just trips the identity fraud prevention. If you’ve had a lot of recent inquiries, be prepared for an agent to give you a little grief about it over the phone, as this sometimes happens.

This can also be the case if you’ve got a lot of “baggage” in your credit report. These are things like delinquent payments, bankruptcies, collections, etc. Having those marks, especially if they are recent, can cause red flags when the bank pulls your credit and they’ll want to investigate.


Reconsideration

In many instances, a pending credit card application will result in a reconsideration phone call. You can take the proactive approach and call up the reconsideration phone line for a bank when your application goes to pending or you can just let it happen on its own, as sometimes you’ll be transferred to reconsideration agent when you call in to inquire about the status of your pending credit card application.

When you’re in a reconsideration phone call you need to explain to the agent why you need or want the card. Generally, you don’t want to tell them you want the card for a sign-up bonus. Better reasons are more practical like you want to segregate your expenses for “X and Y” reasons or you wanted to start building up loyalty with a bank/brand.

The more new accounts and hard inquiries you incur, the more difficult these phone calls will become but you’ll probably be surprised how often it’s possible to still get approved for credit cards if you know how to handle these calls. If you’re ever denied in a recon call, make sure you call back and try your luck with at least a couple of other agents before you give up.

I highly suggest reading my experience with Citi reconsideration to get an idea of how reconsideration can go and also read what you can expect in a business reconsideration phone call to give you more insight into applying for small business cards.